Evan McMullin's Troop-less War Against Donald Trump's GOP
Independent candidate says Republican Party 'can no longer be considered the home for conservatives,' despite all voting evidence to the contrary. Meanwhile, did his ballot exclusion tip Florida away from Hillary Clinton?
Hillary Clinton, for understandable reasons, is keeping a low profile. Gary Johnson may well have disappeared off the map. (Two weeks before the election, the mentally wearied Libertarian told me "I may not even listen to the news again for the rest of my life. So I'll be in ignorant bliss.")
But the only other non-Bernie Sanders presidential candidate to finish as high as third place in any state, the independent conservative Evan McMullin, has spent the last two weeks tweeting out a storm of invective aimed at Donald Trump and his alt-rightiest supporters. A selection:
— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) November 18, 2016
Saying "stop it" to racist attacks means little when you name white supremacist darling Steve Bannon chief strategist in the very same day. https://t.co/BKuyA09VRA
— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) November 14, 2016
As the Trump Administration takes shape, we must not allow the normalization of racial and religious bigotry in America.
— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) November 18, 2016
Criminal justice reform will help minority communities, is important to the cause of liberty, and should advance. https://t.co/oQqzJiBhJ9
— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) November 16, 2016
The white supremacist movement exists in contradiction to the natural truth that all men and women are created equal.
— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) November 21, 2016
That last tweet in particular echoed the single biggest theme in the McMullin/Mindy Finn stump speech: that Donald Trump was violating the Declaration of Independence's notion that all men ("and women," they would always add) are created equal. The Gary Johnson/Bill Weld ticket may have gotten earfuls of grief (some of it deserved) for going comparatively apoplectic at the prospect of a Trump presidency—an emphasis that, perhaps ironically, drove many third-party leaners I know into the arms of McMullin. But in his campaign and post-election behavior, the former CIA operative and Goldman Sachs investment banker has sounded at various times as outraged by Trump's rhetoric and associations as the median Comedy Central employee.
"The Republican Party can no longer be considered the home for conservatives," McMullin said in his concession speech on election night. "Conservatism is about protecting the fundamental rights: That we are all equal, regardless of the color of our skin, the faith that we practice or our gender. But tonight there are millions of Americans, I'm sad to say, who are now in fear that perhaps their liberties will be challenged and threatened under a Trump administration that has made a campaign of targeting people based on their race, religion and gender."
But in his bid to be the vanguard of a "new conservative movement," McMullin has a difficult question to answer. Him and what army?
Not only did Donald Trump rout the Republican primary field and then shock the consensus favorite in the general election, the GOP maintained its control of Congress and its dominance at the state level. Conservative officeholders will likely be too busy enjoying the exercise of power to heed McMullin's call for a new splinter movement.
Meanwhile, the #NeverTrumper finished a distant fourth place in the national vote, with 0.42 percent so far. (Many write-ins have yet to be tabulated, so that figure will go up, but the total number of write-ins stands at 0.63 percent, meaning he will certainly fall far behind Jill Stein's current 1.03 percent.) It is true, McMullin had by far the best finish among third-party candidates in any single state, with his 21.6 percent in Utah (more than doubling Johnson's 9.3 percent in New Mexico), but aside from his 6.7%-4.1% victory over the Libertarian in Idaho (which is the second-biggest Mormon state of the union), the independent never cracked 2 percent in any of the other nine states he made it onto the ballot. There is no evidence that he exists as a significant political phenomenon outside the Mormon belt.
Here are the current numbers for McMullin's nine laggard states, ranked in order of his performance, and displayed along with results from the other minor candidates:
1.80% Minnesota (Gary Johnson 3.84%, Jill Stein 1.26%, Dan Vacek 0.38%, Darrell Castle 0.32%)
1.35% Virginia (GJ 2.97%, JS 0.69%)
1.18% Kentucky (GJ 2.79%, JS 0.72%)
1.17% Arkansas (GJ 2.64%, JS 0.84%, James Hedges 0.42%, DC 0.41%, Lynn Kahn 0.30%)
1.04% Colorado (GJ 5.18%, JS 1.18%, DC 0.42%)
1.00% South Carolina (GJ 2.34%, JS 0.62%, DC 0.27%, Peter Skewes 0.15%)
0.79% Iowa (GJ 3.78%, JS 0.73%, DC 0.34%)
0.73% New Mexico (GJ 9.34%, JS 1.24%)
0.42% Louisiana (GJ 1.87%, JS 0.69%)
So after the many thousands of news stories this year about the #NeverTrump movement, here are your final results: Two bronze medals, six fourth-place finishes, and three times lagging behind Jill Stein. And the only state in which McMullin even has an argument about influencing the outcome is, paradoxically, the one where he wasn't even on the ballot: Florida.
There, in that swingiest of swing states, the administration of Gov. Rick Scott, who runs a Trump-supporting SuperPAC, reversed precedent and outraged ballot-access activists by gratuitously chucking McMullin off the ballot. Donald Trump ended up winning the Sunshine State and its delicious 29 electoral votes by 1.19 percentage points as of current tabulations. While it's true that McMullin only cleared that number in two of his nine non-Mormon states, had he somehow duplicated his Minnesota total of 1.8 percent, that may have been enough to turn Florida blue, given how pre-election polls in Virginia showed him pulling almost exclusively from Republicans and conservatives.
If Florida had repeated its 2000 role as the pivotal state in a tight presidential election, just imagine the national conversation we'd be having now. "The Scott administration put up a shield wall to protect Donald Trump at every turn," McMullin advisor and Florida native Rick Wilson told me three days before the election. "This thing stank on ice."
As it stands, McMullin's Florida exclusion is a footnote of a footnote. Only time will tell whether his campaign to build a new, more equality-based conservative movement will suffer the same fate.
Read my election eve interview with Evan McMullin and Mindy Finn here.